Keeping it short(!) and sweet this week. Recent publications Sirens Call ezine, Issue 44 contains three of my poems and also features TWF writers RJ Meldrum, Alyson Faye, Patrick J. Wynn and Ryan Benson. Check out their stories and let them know what you think. Big congratulations to Alyson Faye whose short story, Night of the Hunter was mentioned last time. It has now been published and hit No. 9 in amazon’s chart. My own week faced the usual downer of rejection (2 short stories) but ended with my novella getting through to a second reading round, so fingers crossed. The latter helped as I was having one of my ‘why do I do this, why don’t I just give up’ moments – the sort we all go through – but I’m still here and so are you …

This week’s lead story from Trembling With Fear is The Sound of Silence by James Sullivan. The start is a perfect example of showing, not telling and continues in this vein throughout. Emotive language is a driving force behind this story allowing the reader to engage fully with Stephen’s suffering, his loss … and his despair. Sound is also here, as something almost human, a violent antagonist, a weapon which ultimately destroys.

National Selection by Arthur Unk mixes use of the senses to build atmosphere in this piece where each night a new layer of threat is added to disturb the watcher from the window. The first part of this story focuses on what is seen but when death comes it is what the watcher hears that finally undermines his resilience.  

Life or Death by RJ Meldrum is such a cold-blooded little story. What price do you put on someone’s life, including your own … and can you pay for it? This had quite a shocker of an ending and the worst part was I could actually see society moving this way … if it hasn’t done already.

Make Do and Mend by N.O.A. Rawle, shows some nifty needlework which might generate an ‘ouch’ moment amongst male readers. An homage to Shelley with a touch of heart.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

This month I’m thrilled to announce that Catherine Kenwell will be joining the editing team for Trembling With Fear. She’ll be helping out with further editing duties as well as special calls. More details on that soon!

As you may have seen in our end of month change e-mail that we lost another cover artist. This is the last step we need to finish the anthology! I’m currently exploring three alternatives. 

Hope everyone is having a productive weekend of reading and/or writing!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Sound of Silence

Stephen shifted in bed to look at the clock. He squinted against the red glow and sighed as it confirmed his fears. 5:30am; barely two hours sleep. Last night hadn’t been much better, nor the night before. His dreams certainly didn’t help – he wasn’t even sure they could be called dreams. The cloudy rings under his eyes would make most believe he had been the participant of a lost fist fight. Stephen stroked the empty space beside him. Something had to change, and he had to be the one to change it; no one else was going to look after him. He could feel his mind and body collapsing from the exhaustion, like a log slowly disintegrating in flames. Settling back, his eyes twitched against the swirling darkness of the ceiling, shadows melting into abnormal shapes and colours as he sighed deeply once more. It drowned out the Hum for a fraction of a second but did not stop it.

He sat up. Sleep had given up on him so he returned in kind. He reached past the clock, pausing above a photo before picking up two rings, slipping on one with ease while the other golden band barely squeezed onto his pinky. He rose and dressed slowly, dragging on sneakers with drunken fingers, and a jacket that should have been replaced several winters ago. He had to walk; clear his head, or try to. The bare cupboards decided he wouldn’t be having breakfast. Locking his door behind him, Stephen shuffled down the hallway past the rooms of silent neighbours no doubt lost in the realm of peaceful dreams. He caught the elevator to the ground floor of the complex and stared at his cracked reflection inside. Pale skin broken only by black eyes and a beard that made him add razor to his shopping list were now defining features. Stepping out into the dark street, he sank deeper into his jacket against the brisk air. Despite being only a few blocks from the city centre, all was quiet, not even a stray car to add its lights to the flickering lamps. Another time he would have found it soothing. He began his trek and made it several paces before he stopped completely.

Unmoving; a lone statue in a lonely street he appeared, until he turned and retreated, cocking his ear and finally confirming his suspicion. The Hum changed volume as he walked. It had never done that – or maybe he simply hadn’t noticed. Who could say when your mind was already half puddle? More importantly was what it told him. It meant there was nothing wrong with his head or his ears; he was not losing his sanity. It meant the Hum was coming from somewhere, and he would find it. He headed back the way he’d came and followed the sound; making his way through various streets and alleys as the Hum grew ever louder.

The Sun was starting to rise and while there were still no cars, there were some people. More than one would expect. Stephen furrowed his brow until he realised; they had to be like him. They too were hearing the Hum and it haunted their waking hours as it did his. He gave one passer-by a reassuring smile; he was going to help them. All he received was a blank stare in response. Quite a few people were giving Stephen the same empty look but his mind was too distracted to take note. Even a man who walked straight into him was forgotten instantly; their concerned frown unseen by Stephen’s tunnel vision. Stephen backtracked to an alley. He was close. He eyed its dead end with some trepidation until he saw a roller door on the left. Making his way into the narrow corridor, he was unaware of the vacant eyes trailing him as he leant down and pried his fingers between ground and roller; attempting to lift what may as well have been solid wall. Standing back up he swore and punched the door as a shadow crawled slowly into the ally. He slumped forward – resting his head against the metal was oddly soothing, but it did not stop the tears. He couldn’t take it anymore, why wouldn’t it stop?

Stephen had always been familiar with the Hum, as were most people. He found it in the dead of night. Found it as he lay in bed while darkness spread throughout the room, deafening the surroundings. And when all was quiet and empty, he began to hear the silence; he began to hear the Hum. As Stephen grew accustomed, it became like a memory that sat just out of reach; tickling his consciousness with its obscurity. That changed when it followed him in the morning, latching on with iron claws throughout the day and staying with him into the deepest parts of the night, chasing away any hope of sleep with its newfound intensity. Its hummingbird echoes crashed from wall to wall inside his head – his personal endless orchestra.

Stephen’s subdued sobs reverberated through the alley, drowning out the approaching footsteps until a sack was pulled over his head and the world went black. He struggled but found his arms unable to move away from his body. He heard the roller door being lifted before somebody forced him forward, saying nothing as they shoved and dragged him through the unknown. Stephen threw his shoulder backward and attempted to run but all the blind dash earned him was a blow to the stomach and several minutes of breathlessness. He had no clue how long he was pushed through strange corridors and down infinite stairs – he felt as if he was in the very depths of the Earth, where ominous hands caressed his frame with malevolent force. Who would find him down here? Who would even look for him? Stephen twisted the ring on his pinky. Not her. Not now. He doubted his work would notice if he didn’t come in tomorrow. Since the Hum had pulled him into its callous embrace his work ethic had collapsed and a spittle dispensing boss in turn alienated him from his co-workers. He didn’t blame them, not really.

Stephen was halted and forced to his knees. It was quiet, the Hum was deafening. His arms were returned; the sack was ripped from his head and the Hum assaulted his hearing. A generator ready to power the world was echoing inside his ears, screeching and drowning out all else. Nose to the ground, he reached up with one hand and placed it against his earlobe, pulling it back to see the blood flowing freely. Stephen locked eyes onto the cracked floor, focusing on indecipherable carvings and refusing to behold what lay before him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as a face leaned over him. Through the river of red he managed to hear a single sentence.
“Do it for her, she’s missed you.”

Stephen slowly sat back and stared towards the source, seeing it clearly for a moment before his vision began to go red. He raised his other hand and held it against his cheek as the blood flowed from his eyes. He began to laugh. Louder and louder he laughed until his whole body was shaking from the force. Yet he could not hear even a whisper of it over the deafening sound of silence.

 

James Sullivan

James Sullivan is a 24 year old writer from Australia. Having been an avid reader from a very young age this passion inevitably turned to writing. His writing reflects his reading preferences; creative with a strong influence of fantasy, though he has tried not to limit himself to this genre alone. In that vein, he has also expanded into non-fiction; writing reviews and articles for an Online Blog with over 10,000 followers. Despite finishing his Degree in Commerce, majoring in Corporate Finance, he continued to pursue this passion, using all of his elective subjects to study and expand his skills in Creative Writing, Editing, English, and History. In addition he has been a member of his University’s Writers’ Club since its creation, and has worked closely in the production of the Clubs self-published Zines via editing, copy-editing, and submissions of his own work.

Life or Death

The red lump sat in the cooler, in a pool of its own juices. The theater and staff were ready.  The recipient lay nearby, waiting to receive the life-giving organ. Lansing checked his phone. There was a new notification. A new high bid. He showed the screen to the patient.

“Can you match this?”

“No, I’ve sold everything. I have no more.”

“Pity.”

Lansing closed the cooler, ignoring the look of shock on the patient’s face. It was horrible, but he was glad he’d kept the auction open until the last minute. The extra ten thousand would come in handy.

 

RJ Meldrum

R.J. Meldrum is an author and academic.  Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010.  He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction.  He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/richard.meldrum.79

Website: http://wolfstarpublishing.com/meldrum/

https://twitter.com/RichardJMeldru1

Make Do and Mend

Bobby-pin securing a blue victory curl in place, Fran placed the member and wheeled the gurney to the centre of the room. Without batting a pin-up eyelash, she sewed it on.

 

No more Valentine’s being humiliated. No more calling Susan for hugs and consolation. Like the WWII women she so admired, she would make do and mend.

 

A stitch here; Carl had the most handsome jaw. A tuck there; Jonny’s six-pack torso adjoined Peter’s tight butt and solid thighs.

 

Outside, the storm raged like the blitz. Fran attached the cables to the bleeding heart; Susan’s sacrifice perhaps her only regret.

N.O.A. Rawle

N.O.A. Rawle regularly burns the midnight oil to get the world in her head in print. A Brit located in Thessaly, her work appears in numerous anthologies and magazines in print and on the web. For more information, find her at www.noarawle.blogspot.gr, follow her on Twitter @NOARawle or Instagram as noarawle and like her on Facebook as N.O.A Rawle.

Natural Selection

I noticed a set of glowing eyes staring at me from across the field. Unsettling yes, scary no. The next night there were two sets of glowing orbs watching, waiting. Scary yes, terrifying no. By the end of the week, the treeline across the field was aglow. My heart skipped a beat as they moved towards the house. I shut the curtains as the wind began to pick up and howl — the scratches at windows and door became maddening. I knew they were here for my flesh. The silence shattered my core. Death came in the form of little-gnawing teeth.

Arthur Unk

Arthur Unk lives and works in the United States, but dreams of a tropical, zombie-free island. He hones his drabble skills via the Horror Tree Trembling With Fear (Dead Wrong, Flesh of My Flesh, The Tale of Fear Itself, and others yet to come) and writes micro/flash fiction daily. His influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and life experience. You can follow his work from all around the web via his blog at http://arthurunk.com or read his many, many micro-stories on Twitter @ArthurUnkTweets

End of the Affair

The sun’s angle had shifted, its beam would soon hit the small mirror she had placed in his hand.

“Take a good, long look at yourself,” she had said, before storming off.

He really hadn’t handled things right. What would she do?

The scattered remnants of the picnic lay around him. He attempted to reach for the wine, a consolation drink, found he couldn’t move.

Then he noticed a packet dropped by the mirror, made out the label, Succinylcholine, muscle relaxant.

He couldn’t move and the sun shifted again, reflected off the glass. She had gone for the slow burn.

 

Steph Ellis

Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative fiction, finding success in a variety of magazines and anthologies, the latest being Asylum of Shadows as part of Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks! series and The Way of the Mother in Nosetouch Press, The Fiends in the Furrows anthology.  Her own collection of short stories has been published in The Reckoning and her dark verse has been gathered in Dark is my Playground. She is co-editor and contributor to The Infernal Clock, a fledgling press which has produced three anthologies to-date. She is also co-editor of Trembling With Fear, HorrorTree.com’s online magazine.

 

She is also an affiliate member of the HWA.

She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on twitter at @el_stevie.

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About Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!

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